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Going on Vacation? Pack Like a Pro With These Expert Tips

All aboard for summer vacation season! Next stop: Our travel and organizing experts deliver their best luggage-packing advice to create space, avoid stress, and start any trip off right!

What to bring: Think fabrics and quantities

Travelers tend to overpack — 55 percent in one survey admitted to not wearing all the clothes they brought on a trip. Frequent traveler and motivational speaker Anne Bonney’s advice: “Pack two or three tops for every bottom.” So for a five-day trip, she brings two basic bottoms and builds five outfits by mixing blouses and jewelry. She also opts for “athleisure” items that look cute enough to wear out. “Modern athletic performance fabrics are light, easy to pack and air-dry quickly. I give mine a quick rinse in the shower.”

Also smart: Avid traveler Loreen Niewenhuis, author of A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach – One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan ($16.95, Amazon), packs clothing near the end of its life. “Socks that are worn almost through at the heel, a sweater that is beginning to unravel at the cuff. I can discard them along the way after their final wearing.” This means more space for souvenirs!

How to fit it: Roll and compress

Forget carefully folding your clothes — rolling them will take up less space. “When you roll, you’re able to take up every square inch of the suitcase,” says Erin Simon, an organizing expert with Clutter Funk. “Roll and place similar items — like t-shirts or socks — in large zip-top bags, then compress and squeeze out the air before sealing.” These bags work like pricey compression packing cubes. Simon adds, “I also use rubber bands to keep shoes together and corral loose gadget cords.”

Also smart: Most airlines have a 50-pound weight limit per checked bag. So if shopping for new luggage, opt for a lightweight model. Experts recommend an empty start weight of 5–8 pounds for a checked bag and up to 5 pounds for a carry-on compared with traditional 12-pound suitcases.

Help for: Sidestepping liquid limitations

Packing toiletries can be a major hassle given TSA rules that liquids measure 3 ounces or less for carry-ons. Luckily, many companies make solid versions of products. Some favorites of jet-setters: Neutrogena Sunblock Stick ($8.52, Amazon), J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo ($14.25, Amazon), and Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets ($5.02, Amazon). A clever way to cut down? Elizabeth Avery of SoloTrekker4U brings multi-use products. “I take shampoo that is combined with conditioner, and tinted sunblock instead of foundation and moisturizer.”

Also smart: To stop spills, former flight attendant Autumn Haag says, “I use ‘soft’ travel bottles that can expand without exploding.” Silicone can handle the plane’s pressurized cabin. (Try Vumos brand, $19.95 for four, Amazon).

Insider secrets to cleaner travel:

KO dirt with shower caps: “I use plastic shower caps to cover the bottoms of shoes and keep the rest of my clothes clean in my luggage,” says tour expert Annie Cheng of The Table Less Traveled.

Erase an oops with wet wipes: “I always have some kind of wet wipe in my bag with me just in case,” says world traveler Kelli Lampkin. (Try individually wrapped Wet Ones, $9.45 for 24 travel packets, Amazon.)

Protect coats with a flip: Turn coats and sweaters inside out before running them through security X-ray screeners to keep dirt from touching the top surface.

Safeguard bags with a wrap: Covering luggage in plastic wrap protects it from getting soiled on conveyor belts. Bonus: It’ll also help guard against theft.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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